The process of divorce can be tedious and overwhelming. Not to mention, it’s also emotionally draining. Everything requires planning, timing, documenting, and money. And moving out of the house after a divorce is no exception.
You would think that deciding who moves out of the marital home during a divorce would be left to the soon-to-be-exes. After all, they’re the ones who have decided they can’t be married anymore. Shouldn’t they know if it’s better for one person to leave during the divorce process?
Unfortunately, the who/when/where of moving out of the house after divorce (and especially during the divorce process) isn’t that simple.
There are ramifications to everything during this time. What you do and don’t do can have legal, financial, and even custodial consequences.
With that in mind, keep this mantra at the forefront of your brain: When in doubt, ask.
That’s why having your team of experts—legal, financial, emotional and practical—is so important before you dive into the detailed essentials of your divorce.
Finding Legal Support
If you haven’t yet hired a divorce attorney, now is the time to secure one—or least schedule a legal consultation dedicated to you and your specific needs and rights as a woman. Visit our helpful guide to hiring a divorce lawyer for suggestions on finding the right attorney for you.
Not sure what to ask a divorce attorney during a consult? We’ve got you covered on that, too.
All that’s to say, don’t be packing your clothes—or throwing out your husbands’ clothes—before talking with your attorney.
If you read your own Miranda Rights before making any big decisions, you will be much more inclined to consult before leaping.
Think, “Everything I say/do/spend can and will be used against me in divorce court. Consult first.”
Because the marital home is your primary asset, any movement to sell or separate will complicate everything regarding division of assets.
It could also become a factor in determining a custodial arrangement for children, as well as child support now and in the future.
*Important note: If you and/or your children and pets are in any kind of danger from your spouse, your safety comes first. Please contact your attorney, divorce coach, and domestic violence hotline to devise a plan for getting you to safety while working on your divorce.
Let’s look at 21 steps for moving out of the house after divorce.
The last two steps pertain to you especially if you are dealing with an unwanted divorce.
Before you move…
- Talk to your attorney about what to do with joint property or property you assume is yours. Should you move out or request he move?
- Begin to plan for the move (his or yours) by reviewing all these steps, and then following the steps most relevant to where you are on your timeline. Don’t let the planning scare you away. “Remind yourself who you are,” says a recently separated SAS client, “and know your own work ethic and ability to provide for yourself is there and in your control.”
- Budget. If you are good with numbers and will be moving out, figure out how much money you will have to spend on housing so you know what you can and cannot afford. If you have no idea, ask a friend to help you crunch the numbers so you understand your options. Or consult with a good financial advisor who can help you plan.
- Make lists of your belongings, joint accounts, individual accounts, etc.
- Start thinking about what you want to surround yourself with in your new life. As another SAS client enrolled in Annie’s Group told us:
“As I started to plan for my move, I walked around our marital home considering how I wanted to live going forward. I decided to bring things that gave me a sense of peace and joy. I evaluated these things deeply, then I used this opportunity to start to purge and downsize before moving out. Next, I began getting rid of things that were weighing me down: clothes that I was no longer wearing or I had ‘overworn’, paperwork that didn’t need saving, mementos that were just too heavy for my future, and the many items I had received and collected over the years.”
Before talking to your spouse about divorce …
- If possible, start cleaning and purging before announcing your desire to divorce. You will get more done not dealing with the stress of his reaction, trust us. And the more non-essentials you can clear from your plate, the better. As suggested above, get rid of clothes you don’t wear or need and tchotchkes collecting dust. Most importantly, tidy up your files and make copies of essential documents. Think of this process as getting both prepared and lighter for your next chapter.
- Make 5 categories to guide your organizing and purging. These five categories include: Trash; Donate; Take (your must-haves for immediate survival); Give to Him; and Storage (the nice-to-have items, sparingly selected, for down-the-road). Next, with the things you will be keeping, giving to him, or needing to discuss, inventory and stash in labeled boxes — if your circumstances allow you to. (If not, you will do it later.) Consider color-coding with stickers on the boxes to quickly recognize “his” and “hers.” For example, you can use blue and green stickers for boxes and for later, going through the house and marking who gets what. And here we go with the “document, document, document.” Yes, you need to document everything, preferably in a dedicated journal. Identify what is in every box (“kitchen drawers near refrigerator”) and to whom it belongs. (You’ll thank us later!) Putting a number on each box to correspond with its number in your ledger will make cross-referencing a breeze.
Your mantra for this step? Let it go. Cue the music and sing out loud if doing so inspires you to toss.
Give it to your ex, donate it, or toss it. But lighten your load. Would you rather write your next chapter on a blank page or between the lines of one already filled?
Get your things in order, literally…
- Take things to the thrift store, recycling, or trash. Ask for a receipt at the thrift store if you itemize for tax purposes.
- Protect special items. Things like photo albums and special mementos can be the source of some tug-of-war in divorce. Take good care of these items. Put them in a safe, protected place. And, wherever possible, consider copying and/or scanning and saving your favorites. If you have children, remember that your civility to their father is your civility to them. And protecting items directly related to their family heritage is a gift to them, no matter which homes the items remain in.
- Work at your own pace keeping positive thoughts in your head when possible.
After you have “the talk”…
- Pick your timing, but talk to your Soon-to-Be-Ex about any items he might have an emotional attachment to and or any large items (a piano? A camper? Paintings? A special collection of CD’s or records?) that will need to find a home. Will the large items go to one of you, or will you sell the baby grand and split the proceeds? Make the necessary arrangements.
- Understand that there are no hard rules or laws about ownership of household items collected during a marriage, but some common ways to decide ownership is if one spouse received a gift personally, like a birthday present from a relative or an engagement ring, that spouse gets to keep it. Gifts made to the couple are typically divided equally. Keep in mind that jewelry your spouse gave you (except your engagement ring) is a marital asset as surprising as that sounds. When in doubt check with your lawyer (see step 1).As for things you already owned before coming into the marriage, those are usually viewed as “yours.”
- Make a plan for children and pets. What will the custody arrangement look like? What will the children and pets need for living space? If you have bonded pets, think compassionately about their happiness and welfare before splitting them up like material assets.
- Line up supportive friends for assistance with helping you organize or move out of the house post-divorce (if necessary) or taking things for storage.
Maintaining fairness and civility…
- Split items equitably. Those blue and green stickers you bought? Now is the time to go through the house together and take turns claiming your major possessions by affixing your colored stickers. If an item becomes a point of contention, either put it on hold… or take a big breath and let it go.
- If you get “stuck,” and can’t just let it go, agree to donate the item to Goodwill or to give it to one of your children. Do not seek justice in court. If you do, you will be greatly frustrated, because the court will likely say, sell it and split the proceeds.
- Keep the kids out of it. They don’t need to witness this, nor participate in the split-up of things, nor help you move. If they are younger, they need to see constancy, even if it’s only in the form of their bedrooms, toys, and daily routines. So, make plans for what items belonging to the kids will be moved, what will stay, and what may need to be duplicated.
Managing the logistics and your heart …
- Hire professional movers. You will be relying on family and friends enough during this journey. Moving out of the house after divorce is something best left to objective, non-emotionally involved movers.
- Make sure your utilities and internet are turned on in advance of moving to your new place. Yes, we are speaking from experience… Candlelight is divine for bubble baths, but not so much for finding the wooden spoon you need to stir your soup.
- If you’re dealing with an unwanted divorce and are alone, ask close friends and family to help. Keep your children out of this process. Make arrangements for them to spend the night with friends. Or take care of the move while they’re in school and doing after-school activities. Professional movers may be ideal, but you may not have that financial option.
- Try to move to a new place if possible. Yes, it’s a lot of work to move. But you will soon realize how emotionally interconnected everything is. This is a time to think “fresh, new, renew(ed).” You don’t need to spend the next chapter of your life steeped in a home you built with someone no longer there.
Understand that moving out of the house after a divorce is not only logistically and physically challenging, but an enormous emotional step in an already difficult process. There is a lot to think about, and yet, you don’t want to get trapped and weighed down by memories and “things.”
This is a time for prudence, wise counsel, strategic coaching… and letting go.
Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce, or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and often times complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.